Stop Saying These 10 Things to Someone with Anxiety (and What to Say Instead)

When you’re talking to someone with anxiety, your words can have a powerful impact. Sometimes, without realizing it, you might say things that aren’t helpful, even if your intentions are pure. So, it’s crucial to understand what phrases can unintentionally worsen their anxiety and what you can say instead to provide genuine support and understanding.

1. “Just Calm Down”

Telling someone to “just calm down” can make them feel like their feelings are invalid or that they’re overreacting. Instead, you can offer comfort by saying, “I’m here for you. How can I support you right now?” This approach acknowledges their feelings and shows your willingness to help.

2. “It’s All in Your Head”

Anxiety can indeed stem from a person’s thoughts, but saying “it’s all in your head” dismisses their experience. A better option would be, “Your feelings are valid. Let’s work through this together.” This reassures them that you see their struggle as real and are there to assist.

3. “You’re Overthinking This”

While overthinking is a common aspect of anxiety, pointing it out directly can seem dismissive. Try saying, “I understand you’re feeling worried. Want to talk about what’s on your mind?” This opens a pathway for communication without judgment.

4. “There’s Nothing to Worry About”

To someone with anxiety, their worries are very real. Instead of diminishing their feelings, try saying, “I see why that’s concerning for you. Can we find a solution together?” This shows empathy and a readiness to help tackle the problem.

5. “I Know Exactly How You Feel”

Even if you’ve experienced anxiety yourself, everyone’s experience with it is unique. Saying, “I understand you’re going through a tough time. How can I help?” respects their individual experience and offers your support without assuming you know all the answers.

6. “Stop Being Negative”

This can make someone with anxiety feel like they’re doing something wrong by feeling the way they do. A more helpful response is, “I see this is really hard for you. Let’s try to find a positive step we can take together.” This encourages a constructive approach without dismissing their feelings.

7. “You Just Need to Get Out More”

While socializing can help some people with anxiety, this isn’t a universal solution. Instead, offering specific support like, “Would you like to go for a walk together? It might help to get some fresh air,” can be more encouraging and less prescriptive.

8. “You Have So Much to Be Grateful For”

Gratitude can be helpful, but this statement can feel dismissive. Instead, try, “I know it’s hard to see the good in things right now. Is there anything in particular that’s making you feel grateful today?” This encourages a positive outlook while acknowledging their current feelings.

9. “It Could Be Worse”

Comparing someone’s anxiety to potentially worse situations can invalidate their feelings. Instead, saying, “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. How can I support you?” shows empathy and recognition of their struggle without comparison.

10. “Just Let It Go”

Telling someone to “just let it go” simplifies the complexity of anxiety. A more supportive response might be, “It seems like this is really weighing on you. Want to talk about what’s making it hard to move past this?” This invites them to share more about their experience and feelings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I accidentally say something hurtful to someone with anxiety?

First, acknowledge the mistake by saying something like, “I realize what I said earlier might not have been helpful. I’m sorry for that. I’m here to support you in any way I can.” This shows that you’re aware of the impact of your words and are open to learning and supporting them better.

How can I help someone with anxiety feel better?

Listening is one of the most powerful ways to support someone with anxiety. Offer your presence, listen to their concerns without judgment, and ask how you can help. Sometimes, just knowing they have someone who cares can make a significant difference.

Is it okay to ask someone with anxiety how I can help them?

Absolutely! Asking, “How can I best support you right now?” is a great way to show that you care. It gives them the opportunity to tell you what they need, which could range from a listening ear to assistance with finding professional help.

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